‘Soiler’-alert – Wednesday, 3rd week in ordinary time – Mark 4: 1-20
We often hear that Jesus spoke in parables, so what then is a parable? When translated from the Greek, a parable (parabolê) is an analogy or a comparison but which has only one intended message. This compound word comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “to throw” or “see” with. However the Hebrew word for parable is msl, pronounced as mâshâl and has a much wider range of meaning, including sayings, stories and even riddles.
This is the first of a series of parables in Mark’s Gospel. Interestingly he even positions it as the key parable when he says, “do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13). There is something in this parable that Mark wants us to sit up and take notice.
Mark’s Gospel is about the Kingdom of God, and in chapter four Mark specifically begins to expose what exactly this kingdom is like. In all of these parables that are strung together in chapter four what emerges is the all-important question, in whom does the kingdom best take root? Who is the good soil?
Mark’s setting for the parable is the Sea of Galilee, the crowds are pressing upon Him to hear His words and so he takes refuge in a boat. The parable clearly has unchangeable components, namely the sower, the soil and the seed. The sower is most certainly God, the soil is the world and the seed is us. What changes is where the seed fell.
But the question one is bound to ask is, what fault is it of the seed that had no choice where it fell? The Gospel writer is not concerned about this issue, remember that this is a parable and he has one message to convey; in whom does the kingdom best take root?
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